I starting taking antidepressants in the summer of 2016. This was a really big decision for me and something that I had put off for a really long time. It took me ages to make this decision because before this I didn’t like the thought of putting strong medication into my body with the possibility of getting adverse side effects. I was also adamant that I would be able to overcome depression with wellness activities like yoga and exercise.
It never occurred to me that I would get such severe depression (that’s what I was diagnosed with from my doctor) that I literally would not be able to do any of these activities that are supposed to help with depression. I was going through a serious eating disorder at the time as well, so didn’t have the mental or physical energy to do anything. I felt so helpless, trying to muster whatever energy I did have to be able to get on with my dissertation. I was in such a bad way that I eventually decided I was going to go to the doctors and get antidepressants. Like I said, this really wasn’t an easy decision but I felt like I didn’t have another way. I wanted to share my experience with taking medication for depression to help anyone else that is going through a similar experience.
At my first appointment with the doctor, I was prescribed Citalopram (I think this is the most common medication to prescribe). The first couple of days I didn’t feel much of a difference, in fact I felt even worse on a few occasions, however this had subsided by the end of the first week. This was when I started to get peaks of happiness and I noticed that my mood began to change. I was becoming happier and more interested in each day. I started to find things funny – I don’t remember genuinely laughing for months and months before this. It was really weird to me because although I was aware of how sad I had been, I didn’t realise that I hadn’t laughed in such a long time until I laughed again.
Although I started to feel the benefits of Citalopram, I realised that I was exhausted in the day. It wasn’t the same exhaustion I had felt from not eating, but more a mental exhaustion. It was like I was a zombie walking around in a dream or in my own bubble. I felt happy but because of the bubble effect I never felt like I was 100% myself. I never felt as happy as I did when I was completely me (if that makes any sense at all). On top of this, I started to get mild insomnia – I either couldn’t get to sleep for ages as my mind was racing, or I would drift in and out of sleep for the whole night. From reading about other people’s experiences with antidepressants, I came to learn that these are quite common side effects. These side effects are more certainly something to think hard about before taking any antidepressant, because in my case and I’m sure many others, the side effects were pretty intense and took over my life for the time I was taking them. After being on Citalopram for about a month I went back to the doctors.
I saw a different doctor on my second appointment and my experience with him was pretty poor. When I first walked in he said absolutely nothing to me, just started at me as I sat myself down. I smiled and waited for him to say the typical ‘so what can I do for you today’, but this never came. After an uncomfortable few moments I said (really awkwardly) ‘hello’ and then began to explain why I had come. The only response I got back was ‘well, what did you want from this appointment then?’ Super blunt. Very unhelpful. I almost felt embarrassed for being there in the first place. I really wanted to mention this because it gets guts to go to a doctors and explain how you’re feeling.
ANYWAY. After my second appointment, the doctor prescribed me with an alternative antidepressant, Fluoxetine. He did say that generally if someone doesn’t get on with Citalopram they get on with Fluoxetine. On the whole I would have to agree. I have been taking Fluoxetine for around 9 months now and I don’t get the same symptoms as Citalopram but, I still do get some – thankfully they’re not as intense as before. I don’t feel like a zombie when I take them, however the feeling of being in a bubble or a dream can sometimes creep in. I get mild memory loss – I feel like I forget things easier and I have to make more of an effort to get things ‘right’. As well as this, my attention span has decreased quite a lot, and my brain can ‘jump’ from one thing to another in an instance. I still experience tiredness, it’s not as extreme as it was with Citalopram, but by 9pm most evenings I could easily feel like all my energy has gone. I also feel like my personality isn’t quite myself, more of a subdued version.
The way I have managed these symptoms is simply by not taking the medication everyday. I’m lucky because I am able to go a few days now in between taking Fluoxetine without feeling depressed and without having to get the side effects as much.
For me, antidepressants have helped to be able to smile again and forget a lot of the pain that I had previously been feeling. I was able to get out of bed, to not cry all day long and to finally finish my dissertation. Since then I have been able to find a new job (and actually be pretty good at it). I have been able to laugh with my boyfriend and sing in the shower. Taking medication has also helped me massively with the eating disorder. I’m finally at a stage now where I feel strong, where I’m able to look at my body and think how amazing it really is. So, for me, this positive experience outweighs the negative side effects that I have dealt with since taking the medication. If you are thinking about taking antidepressants, I would definitely consider the implications and make sure your decision is going to be right for you.
I hope this helps anyone that is struggling. I promise it gets better x